News from the TCKid Community

Refusing to Be Erased

with 21 comments

Claiming Our Identity

Very recently, I had a disturbing, unwelcomed debate with a colleague about my experiences as a TCK. As I tried to discuss why TCK’s need support systems and services delivered by TCK’s with common backgrounds rather than people who cannot relate, he challenged every point I raised.  He questioned the credibility of books that have been published about the TCK experience.  He doubted the validity of how professional PTSD counselors diagnose TCK children who experienced multiple losses but not physical war or violence as showing PTSD symptoms. He even questioned the appropriateness of term “TCK tribe,” even as I explained to him that the larger TCK community have come to commonly use this term with a sense of empowerment.

He just could not accept that “people who have gone through certain experiences should be the experts of their own experiences.” When I no longer allowed him to continue debating me about what I repetitively described as “close to my heart” (from the first several minutes of to my last sentences in the conversation), and therefore “not up for debate” he then resorted to insulting me as a person and human being.  Attempts to deflect tension were only met with further insult.


He suggested that I can be the expert of my own personal experiences, but not for the shared experiences I have in common with others.


Just to give some perspective about how widely accepted the TCK identity is among people who identify with the term, TCKid, just one bare minimum budget, volunteer skeleton crew organization that started helping TCK’s connect in 2008 through its private forum accessible through, connects with over 30,000 Facebook fan page members, on TCKid: A Home for Third Culture Kids and Cross Cultural Kids Everywhere.  These members came together years ago to discuss their TCK experiences and this number does not include members lost due to adjustments made by Facebook over the years.  There are about 4000 and growing members who still remain on TCKid’s private forum, despite the various trends of social media in recent years.  Now, Buzzfeed itself publishes TCK articles, such as “31 Signs You’re a Third Culture Kid” and “26 Decisions That Are Incredibly Difficult for TCK’s.”

There was one small area of debate my colleague ceded:  He suggested that I can be the expert of my own personal experiences, but not for the shared experiences I have in common with others.

Let me be clear on this: The concept that people can only be the experts of their own personal lives, but not the validated experiences they share with others in the TCK or global nomad tribe, would disrespectfully dismiss all the personal sacrifices and work that has been accomplished to push the experiences of globally mobile families out of marginalized darkness.  

If TCK’s, as a tribe, do not protect ownership of our collective identity or the language we use to narrate our experiences, we as a tribe, get erased.  The moment we passively let someone who does not genuinely support the reality of our identity claim authority over our experiences or the language we use as a tribe is the moment we discard our growth and progress out of a place of invisibility.  It would erase a self-less collective reverence for all who have come before us and the earned wisdom established that can pave the path for the younger generations in our tribe.  We would go back to being invisible.


 Relinquishing our claim to the commonality of certain shared experiences as a TCK tribe would dismiss the pioneering work…


Relinquishing our claim to the commonality of certain shared experiences as a TCK tribe would dismiss the pioneering work of Dr. Ruth Hill Useem, the sociologist and researcher who coined the term “Third Culture Kid” in the 1950’s based on her observations about shared experiences and field research she conducted on TCK populations in 76 countries, as well as of Dr. John Useem, Dr. Ann Baker Cottrell and Dr. Kathleen A. Finn Jordan who later joined her in research (please click here to see the original source of information created by Army Brat Samuel L. Britten, now archived as caches. If using information form these cached sites, please give due credit to his Samuel L. Britten. TCKid has no affiliation with the current working site.)  It would dismiss all the work and research that has been conducted since then, such as the recent research of Dr. Danau Tanu on Asian TCK’s.  We are also talking here about the work of people who brought the term beyond residing mostly in academia and into our homes and personal conversations. David Pollock, co-author with Ruth Van Reken of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, went “around the world, school to school” and despite encountering people who “didn’t believe in it“(Van Reken, Ruth. “TCKid Talks: Ruth Van Reken and Michael Pollock.” 5:30-5:50 Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 26 Oct. 2013), pushed all the way through until a book was written, which was finally published in 1999.

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Written by Myra Dumapias

December 13, 2014 at 2:54 pm

21 Responses

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  1. Thank you, Myra. This article eloquently states exactly what the issue is and has been about. Our identity — the past and the future. You cannot cut today’s BRAT off from yesterday’s BRAT without doing extreme harm.

    And no amount of research on the subject of the military child will ever be valid if you refuse to communicate with and include input from those who had a military childhood.

    We have every right to be angry, incensed and outraged by this hijack. And when confronted, instead of recognizing their failing and asking for input (which they would have gotten…if they were genuine), they chose to vilify us because we were criticizing them for being pure good souls who only wanted to help us.
    The first step was to acknowledge us by our name — not tell us that it was not good enough.
    They owe us a huge apology — not just for their initial hijacking, but also for their constant vilification and dismissal of us. [oh, I don’t intend to suffocate waiting for it though.]

    Misty Corrales

    December 13, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    • Exactly.. you put it so well! I am still hoping that some will realize their mistake in dismissing your concerns…. the way your concerns as a military brat community were dismissed makes it evident that there is an underestimation of who today’s military brats are exactly.


      December 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    • Well said! I needed this tribe years ago…but God used the well meaning but hurtful comments to draw me closer to Him…I now worry less what others think (yup, even in the church) n more what He thinks:)

      Beverly Young-Kniegge

      December 16, 2014 at 6:18 am

  2. Eloquent is an understatement. Thank you for putting words to our feelings.


    December 13, 2014 at 10:28 pm

  3. Wow! Well thought out, expressed and speaks as if it came from my own soul. I am a proud AF BRAT! Ten schools in 13 years. It made me work at getting over the social anxiety. lol I learned that since we would probably be moving in a year, I had better make friends fast or I would be lonely all year! Thank you for putting words to the song in my heart. ~hugs~


    December 13, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    • Yes as a civilian and foreign service brat, I completely relate to that! I think I invested time into this article because I was just trying to make connections when I felt overwhelmed with a spirit of rejection… extreme rejection in the skepticism of that conversation and the rejection of the precious voice of military brats ( some of whom also happen to be Vietnam vets!)


      December 15, 2014 at 2:44 pm

  4. “Please visit this page to watch an interview with military brats about this issue and how they wish to proceed with services and programs for military brats.”

    I’ve read the article twice and I still can’t figure out what “this page” is to watch the video and who “they” are? Is they a generic reference to older military brats? A specific brats organization and its leaders? Or an individual brat and a video they made? This is mixed in with a paragraph talking about Operation CHAMPS in the previous sentence. I don’t think the they is them even though they are the closest antecedent!?!

    Overall a very good and articulate article – but needs a once over to tighten up the grammar.


    December 14, 2014 at 7:40 am

    • Thanks! That one sentence was clarified to : “Please visit this page at a later time for a link that will be added in the near future to an interview with military brats about this issue. In the interview, we also discuss how they wish to proceed with services and programs for military brats.” … “this page” refers to this, here, page that this article is on.


      December 15, 2014 at 9:19 am

  5. Bravo Myra. WOW! I was going to say much more, but…WOW.

    Robert L Webster

    December 14, 2014 at 9:27 am

    • Robert, thank you for remaining very supportive and a great resource to partner with for the TCK community. I look forward to working with you as this year unfolds.


      January 23, 2015 at 1:02 pm

  6. Thank you for writing this. It’s important to have a calm and erudite voice on this issue, and you have provided it.

    Susan Haney

    December 14, 2014 at 10:25 am

    • Thank you, Susan. Believe me, I also had to find stillness before writing this. I was offended alongside you all.


      January 23, 2015 at 12:56 pm

  7. I hope all of our TCK experiences can encourage each other…I have forgiven unthoughtful comments, but feel I can use that experience to encourage others…if you’re new to an area and someone says ” You don’t seem to have any friends” turn a deaf ear…it does not define you. If someone puts down what you share comparing you to a Seattle street kid, they have no clue and no gift of empathy…please don’t let rude comments define how you feel about a place you live…it has taken me 20 years to forgive…may you be able to sooner:)

    Beverly Young-Kniegge

    December 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    • Thank you, Beverly. Yes I am in similar shoes as you – I just wanted to help those who have experienced being dismissed know that they are not alone. Writing and connecting with you all helped me move beyond how insensitive comments affected me.


      January 23, 2015 at 1:02 pm

  8. Thank you for bringing up some important issues, Myra. To the outsider our TCK experiences may seem trivial since they have no way to relate. I agree that our TCK needs are best met by other TCKs who have firsthand experience with the issues. I feel very fortunate that my experience as a TCK was more on the “gifts”/positive side, but I can certainly relate to some of the TCK challenges which I only really feel comfortable discussing with other TCKs. And your premise of protecting our identity as TCKs/military brats/whatever the case may be is spot on.

    Lily Ann Fouts

    December 15, 2014 at 8:59 am

    • Thank you Lily! It’s nice to hear that you could relate and agree to this as a civilian TCK!


      December 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm

  9. I await the completion of this treatise with bated breath and unbridled anticipation. The link to this article has become my standard for introduction of the uninitiated to the CHAMPS/BRAT fracas (and all things TCK)
    You have drawn up a dictionary, encyclopedic entry, historical document, and contact list/bios, in five easy pages that explains the basics (plus) clearly and concisely.
    Keep an extra copy on hand, ‘cuz I think I’m going to wear this one out.

    Michael A Payne

    December 20, 2014 at 3:24 pm

  10. As much as those close to me try to understand the struggles a Brat has undergone, they will admit that they don’t completely understand. Visiting my son recently we were discussing how many schools I attended, 15 total, which included 4 high schools (2 years in the same school), he lovingly said “no wonder you have wanderlust.”

    Kay Harrell Kern

    December 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    • Hi Kay… yes, those experiences are one of the things we have in common… I attended 3 high schools and spent 2 years in one school too! We need more people like us in leadership positions so that little things like this aren’t easily dismissed.


      January 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

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